Vladimir Slivyak at anti-nuclear protest in Moscow in 2011.

Vladimir Slivyak warns of “high risk” of a Chernobyl-style nuclear accident in Ukraine

News 04.03.2022

The risk of a serious accident due to fighting around nuclear power plants in Ukraine is “high,” said Russian environmentalist and 2021 Right Livelihood Laureate Vladimir Slivyak on Thursday. He noted that environmental groups are very concerned about the safety of the 15 nuclear reactors operating in Ukraine.

“Right now, there is a high risk of a new nuclear accident, similar to the Chernobyl accident in 1986,” Slivyak told a press conference.

He said that a strike on an operating nuclear power plant, a nuclear waste storage unit or even the still highly-contaminated area of Chernobyl could lead to a nuclear accident “even bigger than Chernobyl.”

Slivyak added that besides direct attacks on nuclear facilities, disruptions in electricity supplies to nuclear power plants can have serious consequences for the safety of those plants.

“When there is a war going on, one blast that interrupts energy supply for the nuclear reactor may actually lead to a real nuclear accident, when, for example, the reactor will be overheated and can explode in a way like in Chernobyl,” he said.

“There is only one way to actually prevent this …: stop the war right now!”

Previously, Slivyak, who has for decades campaigned against the use of nuclear energy in Russia, warned that facilities storing nuclear waste posed an especially high risk in the context of a war.

While nuclear reactors are well protected and tend to be able to withstand attacks, storage units for spent nuclear fuel are quite vulnerable. At the same time, spent nuclear fuel can contain even more radiation than an active reactor.

“The storage for spent nuclear fuel that is located next to a reactor [is] much easier to destroy and usually in this storage, you would have a lot more radiation than in the reactor,” Slivyak said.

He added that the radiation for spent fuel was a “few times more than in the reactor.”

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